The memory of the lovely Helena de Vries, the secret love of South African poet C J Langenhoven, lingers on the farm Gideon’s Hoop, near Klaarstroom, once known as “The Cold Valley”. Helena was born in Prince Albert in 1872 and lived in a house known as Mirtlehof (Mirtle Grove). While studying at Bloemhof Seminary in the Stellenbosch area in the late 1890s she was introduced to “Petite”, as Langenhoven was known because of his small stature.
Some believed it was love at first sight. After they met Helena and “”Petite” were seldom out of each other’s company and within short they became engaged. This lasted for two years and then her pious, austere Dutch father stepped in. He considered Langenhoven, a self-confessed aethist, far too liberal for his daughter and he forbade them to continue seeing each other.
Helena later married the twice-widowed Gideon Muller, who had six children. She bore him only one child, a son, who they named Giedie,
In 1894 Langenhoven wrote an English poem in Helena’s honour. The first letter of each decending line spells “Helena”. Today Helena’s spirit still fills Gideon’s Hoop. There are fading photographs of her in several rooms of the house. Langenhoven’s Afrikaans Birthday Book, dedicated to her in his on hand, lies on a little side table and one of two pressed roses rests in her Bible. He kept its twin together with a lock of her hair.